NZIA members on Christchurch City Plan

Architects contribute ‘Early verdicts on the Christchurch draft Central City Plan’ in the latest issue of New Zealand Institute of Architects Cross Section magazine.

Christchurch’s draft Central City Plan, which the [Christchurch City] Council has been pressed to produce with some despatch, has met with a mixed response from local architects. Let’s start with the positive reactions. “The draft Central City Plan is a very good achievement in a short period of time and encapsulates a broad range of ideas and concepts that have been articulated to date,” says Warren and Mahoney’s Peter Marshall. “As a discussion document it will provide the necessary catalyst for a detailed evaluation needed in order to finalise the re-build framework for Christchurch.”

Various positives are expressed in reaction to Volume 1, followed by ‘criticalities’ and ‘explosions’ lobbed at the constraints of Volume 2.

A common critical theme is that the draft Plan is, in the words of Ian Athfield, “extremely prescriptive”, and that the regulatory regime revealed in Volume 2 would be inimical to the city’s recovery. “There are issues… that are going to need a more careful examination to ensure the urban design attributes do not compromise commercial realities,” says Peter Marshall. Peter’s remarks are a judicious expression of opinions that seem to be widely held by Christchurch architects.

“The more I look into Volume 2 the more concerned I get,” says Jasper van der Lingen (Sheppard & Rout Architects, and chair of the NZIA’s Canterbury branch). “Some examples: Volume 1 says you can get extra height for good urban design and a green building. Volume 2 translates this into mandating that a building owner must employ a green building council professional – bureaucracy and cost – and good urban design translates into a pitched roof between 30 and 60 degrees. Volume 1 talks about safety through passive surveillance. Volume 2 translates this into ridiculous rules about how much glazing you must have. Volume 1 talks about good scale of retail. Volume 2 translates this into a maximum size of retail of 250 square metres – no Ballantynes or Farmers. Volume 2 has some terrible stuff about blank façades that looks a lot worse than the old residential 20 metre rule, and it determines where neighbourhood centres should go without consultation with the local community – in dumb places, in my opinion.”

“There will be capital flight if this goes through unaltered,” Jasper says. “Volume 1 was a pass and appears to be written by designers. Volume 2 is a big fail and appears to be written by planners. It’s a huge worry for the future of Christchurch. The NZIA has a lot of work to do to fight this.”

It’s only a DRAFT. Read more

Posted by Elizabeth Kerr


Filed under Architecture, Construction, Design, Economics, Geography, Heritage, Politics, Site, Town planning, Urban design

2 responses to “NZIA members on Christchurch City Plan

  1. Anonymous

    Heh. Volume 1 was written by designers and kinda works. Volume 2 was written by planners and kinda doesn’t work.

  2. After listening to Stephen Jenkinson at a talk in Christchurch last night (Monday, 26th Sept) it is clear that there is a potent hole in the urban densification model suggested in the Christchurch ‘plan’. The failure to recognise the needs of people and their pets. This is encapsulated in the presentation documents, a thoroughly researched insight learned from from ten years of transitional urban planning in the UK.

    Anyone interested can get a sense of this from the case studies in the aptly titled “Pets in the City” where ‘real estate’ and capital meet health and well being.

    Two other high quality documents, also prepared from Australia’s experience inform constructively on urban design with template concepts for residential and town planning architects. These covered everything from the biopsychosocial ie health best practice to actual housing and private and public landscape templates.

    * Living Well Together, How Companion Animals can help Strengthen Social Fabric – a superbly referenced document by Dr. Lisa Wood, Centre for the Built Environment and Health. Uni Western Australia

    * Four Legs//Four Walls, Design Guidelines by Harlock Jackson, Urban Policy Analysts and Town Planners.

    Attendees at the meeting (see for details and pdf’s of the “A City Good For Dogs is Excellent for People” presentation) expressed concern that planners attending the consultations phase actively discouraged inputs from the public that may have brought light onto the subject. Yet, Council is responsible for delivery of pet freindly and more specifically dog friendly space for the benefit of dog owners AND non-dog owners in the urban planning. This becomes even more important in the post earthquake scenario with displacement from red-zones, uncertainty and re-integration into yet to be developed suburbs, let alone densification as per the CBD consultations.

    Stephen’s visit has empowered a new way of thinking about possibities and potentials for Christchurch, a truly City of Dog. (It has twice as many dogs per household as Auckland and three times that of Wellington.)

    The writer is available to speak to the issue.


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